Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, welcomed the release of former Presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov and his campaign aide Dmitry Bandarenka.
“I call on the authorities of Belarus to release unconditionally now also all other remaining political prisoners and to remove all restrictions on the enjoyment of their civil and political rights. This would certainly contribute to possibilities for moving towards improved relations between the EU and Belarus,” Ashton said in a statement.
Sannikov, a former deputy foreign minister and presidential candidate, was sentenced to five years of prison last year for taking part in a protest that followed Lukashenko’s disputed re-election victory in December 2010.
On Saturday, Lukashenko said Sannikov had been released from his high-security prison thanks to a presidential pardon, a move that may help calm a diplomatic spat between Minsk and the European Union, which has been campaigning for his freedom.
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